Jonathan Taylor and the Indianapolis Colts ran all over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills’ Week 11 performance was somehow more disappointing than their loss to the Jaguars. They have now failed to win back-to-back games since early October.
The AFC East is currently led by the Patriots, who are playing some of the best football in the league. The sky is falling in Buffalo. Whatever has changed in Buffalo, there is still time to overcome it and be the team we all know and expect them to be.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Good
Red Zone Offense
The Bills were perfect in their two red zone possessions with both touchdowns going to Stefon Diggs. This had been a weak point this season, but that was not the case in the Bills’ Week 11 game.
Allen hit Diggs on a 6-yard out to cut the Colts lead down to seven in the early second quarter. They connected again for a 9-yard score when the game was well out of reach in the early fourth quarter. Diggs is clearly still at the top of his game and deserves many more schemed looks as part of the natural game script.
It is hard to find positives after such a disheartening performance, but at least there were no injuries. I agree with McDermott’s decision to pull his starters when it was clear things were over. On a short week, rest and recovery is hard to come by and every bit helps.
Cole Beasley is limited with a rib injury, as he has been for weeks. Tremaine Edmunds was a full participant in their Monday walkthrough after missing the Bills’ Week 11 game. Unfortunately, Star Lotulelei and Spencer Brown will remain in Covid protocols and miss the Saints game.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Bad
Allen played poorly. This is not disputable. He was not the reason they lost, but the franchise QB should be the player to step up when everything else is going wrong. Allen did not. He forced his first interception into a bad spot, but an uncalled DPI allowed the safety to make his break. He also got picked when things were already over on a bad ball that Kenny Moore volleyed up to himself.
Throughout the day, he never really looked comfortable and had no command over the offense. This has been a concerning theme throughout this season — when adversity piles up, Allen fails to step up and pull the team out of it.
Bills Week 11 Recap – The Ugly
Sean McDermott’s buzzword of choice is “culture”. The previous teams took pride in an exceptional culture where everything was earned and never given. That culture was the foundation of the organizational turnaround. Those teams were disciplined and resilient and always willing to stand up and fight in the face of adversity.
This team, however, is soft. Their culture is all about gloating when they beat up bad teams and cowering when they are punched in the mouth. They get bullied in the trenches and have no fight in them when the going gets tough.
In post game interviews of all their losses, we hear “This is not who we are”. When it happens every other week, and this deep into the season, it is exactly who you are. There is plenty of time to dig in and find that resilient culture, but right now they don’t have it.
Speaking of McDermott, he made some real bad decisions in this game. The Bills’ Week 11 game was cold, rainy, and windy. McDermott opted for two field goal attempts (57 and 49 yards) when they were down 24-7.
Needing multiple scores, knowing Taylor can run at will against you, and the weather being so bad are clear reasons to keep your offense on the field. The first attempt is excusable being an end-of-half play, but the second is inexcusable and essentially a forfeit.
The personnel management was disappointing as well. The defensive line was getting bullied and has not been great this year, but Ed Oliver had been a bright spot. Oliver only played 46% of the snaps, while Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler both played over 60%. Run defense isn’t Oliver’s best attribute but he is certainly better than those two.
Another position with questionable management is running back. Devin Singletary has at least been serviceable this year and deserves some run. Zack Moss has been uninspiring, at best. Matt Breida has been inactive most of the season, but his impact on the offense is clear. He has burst and speed that the others lack and it showed in the past two games. He needs to be the guy going forward.
The Bills’ defense entered the game ranked top in the league without many questions. There were some skeptics based on the quality of offenses the team had faced, but nobody thought the unit was bad. The Colts exposed the unit.
Jonathan Taylor continued his potential MVP campaign gaining over 200 yards and five touchdowns. The team gave up nearly five yards per carry when they had eight or more in the box, and were expectedly even worse with light boxes. This was an all-around failure to compete against a team built to do exactly what they did on Sunday.
McKenzie has been a fun spark in his return duties this year, causing some fans to ask “Andre Roberts who”? In the Bills’ Week 11 game, however, McKenzie showed a troubling problem that has followed him throughout his career: ball security. The Colts took a 17-7 lead late in the first half. The Bills were in a perfect “double dip” position with a chance to score in the two minute drill and get the ball back at halftime.
Instead, McKenzie fumbled the kick and gave the Colts a 1-yard field to work with. Taylor punched the ball in to take a 24-7 lead. The Bills never recovered from that moment, despite decent momentum immediately before it.
The offensive line is really bad and has been really bad in all of their losses. Spencer Brown was missed and will be missed against New Orleans as well. Jon Feliciano has also been missed, and it appears unlikely that he will return by Thursday. As much as the team needs Brown, it was never the plan for him to start.
Openly admitting that the line was a weakness, Brandon Beane refused to address it in a meaningful way this offseason. His plan was to run it back with the same starting group he was dissatisfied with last season. They got lucky that their third round project tackle was good enough to start right away. This team lives and dies with the offensive line, and it is a concern that the front office has been comfortable with this weak group.
The Bills have to put this game in the past and refocus quickly. They face the Saints in the Thanksgiving night game this Thursday. New Orleans lost Sunday as well but are strong in the trenches and post a similar threat to the Colts.
The schedule ahead is grueling and these next few weeks will reveal if the Bills are contenders or potentially not even a playoff team at all. Let’s hope that the Bills’ Week 11 result was a reality check for a team we all know is capable of competing.
Check back in later this week for a full preview of the Thanksgiving game. Go Bills!
The Browns visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday with both teams looking to firmly assert their positions in the AFC playoff picture. The Patriots have recovered from a sluggish start to the season having won 4 of their last 5, including three in a row. With a win, the Patriots would stay a half-game back of the Bills for the division lead. While continuing to send shivers through the rest of the NFL.
The Browns are 2-3 in their last five and currently sit ninth in the AFC playoff picture. The Browns are hoping they righted the ship in a 41-16 thrashing of the Bengals last week. A win for them on Sunday would legitimize their aspirations of being a threat for the postseason and help wash away the taste of an inconsistent start to the season.
Going into the Game
The Pats put themselves in a poor spot early in the season and have been climbing out of it ever since. Every game has felt like a big one as the Pats face top teams week in and week out. They announced their return two weeks ago against the Chargers and ground out a hard-fought win last week against a feisty Panthers team. Another win Sunday would cement their status as an AFC top dog.
Despite the recent winning streak, the Pats are still facing questions. Outside of the two games against the Jets, the Pats offense is averaging 21.5 points which is further inflated by two defensive touchdowns over the past two weeks. Counterpoint? The Chargers and Panthers feature two of the best pass defenses in the NFL. Both rank in the top six in passing defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).
The Pats defense has also feasted on weaker competition thus far this year. Against teams with 1-4 wins, the defense is allowing 12.8 points per game, 298.8 yards per game, averaging 2.4 takeaways per game, and have an opposing passer TD:INT ratio of 5:10. Against teams with 5 or more wins the numbers paint a different picture; 26.5 points per game, 392.3 yards per game, on average a single takeaway per game, and a TD:INT ratio of 7:3. While troubling, the defense has been jelling as of late and playing top-level ball since facing off against TB12 on Sunday Night Football.
However you want to slice this game, injuries will play a part. Both teams will likely be missing key contributors. Running backs on both sides may be absent as Patriots Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson deal with concussions. The Browns will be without top backs Nick Chubb (COVID) and Kareem Hunt (IR-calf). The Browns are also facing injuries along their offensive line with starting RT Jack Conklin on IR. Starting C JC Tretter a late addition to the injury report this week with a knee ailment. In a repeat of previous weeks, this will be a knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out affair that promises to be low scoring and bring fans back to a brand of football rarely seen in today’s pass-happy league. Without further ado, the breakdown is presented in “Who has the advantage when…” format.
Patriots Pass the Ball
It’s been mentioned many times in this column but the Patriots’ passing game starts with protecting Mac Jones. Last week his play fell off as the Panthers got pressure. Successful defense starts with the marriage of pass rush and coverage and the Browns are exceptionally good at getting pressure. They have the second-best pressure rate in the league despite blitzing on only 20.8% of opponents’ dropbacks. Myles Garrett continues to be a complete force, pacing the team with 12.5 sacks. The team totals 27 sacks, also good for second in the league despite the next highest single sack total belonging to Jadeveon Clowney with 3.5 sacks.
The passing attack sputtered last week against an aggressive and fast front seven. The task doesn’t get any easier against a similar group in Cleveland. The Pats will be able to take advantage of the Browns’ aggressive linebackers in coverage with screens and play action. Multiple times against the Bengals last week, the Browns’ LB’s vacated the short intermediate middle field on hard play action. That is Mac’s comfort zone and if he can get cooking there, the offense will have success through the air. The Browns feature primarily zone coverage, something Mac and the Pats’ offensive concepts usually exploit. None of it matters if the hog mollies upfront doesn’t keep Mac upright.
Patriots Run the Ball
The Pats face a challenge before even stepping on the field Sunday as the health of both Harris and Stevenson is questionable for the game. If the two lead backs can’t go, the Pats would be left with Brandon Bolden and JJ Taylor to shoulder the load. According to reports, Stevenson has a better chance at returning than Harris. If the Pats do enter the game with only two active backs on the roster, it would not be surprising to see Jonnu Smith getting snaps out of the backfield ala Cordarrelle Patterson 2018.
The Browns feature the third-best run defense according to DVOA. The Pats rushing game had its best single-game output last week against a similar style defense. The Browns feature much more talent along their defensive front, which may make having success on the ground a much different task. The Pats would be wise to utilize some misdirection plays and counters with pulling guard action in hopes of taking advantage of the Browns’ aggressive style. This has the makings of running to keep the defense honest and set up play-action rather than running due to success.
Browns Pass the Ball
It all starts with the tight ends in the Cleveland passing game. The two leading receivers in terms of catches on the Browns roster are tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper. This grouping is the engine that drives the Browns passing game. The Browns also utilize “13” personnel (one running back, three tight ends) at an absurd rate. They lead the league with 129 plays ran from “13” personnel, the next closest team, the Titans, has 52. Belichick has also been harping on the fact the Browns are one of few teams that regularly run tight end screens throughout the game. The Patriots are uniquely set to defend this grouping with utility safeties Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips skill sets provide the defense favorable matchups. Not many teams roster hybrids of this pedigree, something the Browns have been able to take advantage of but probably stops this week.
When the Browns do go outside in the passing game it isn’t big-name Jarvis Landry making the plays of late, it’s been second-year man Donovan People-Jones. All three of the Browns passing touchdowns to a wide receiver have been to People-Jones. Over his last three games, People-Jones has caught 11 of 14 targets for 257 yards with an average depth of target of 21 yards. He adds the explosive element to this Browns passing attack. My bet is J.C. Jackson draws People-Jones in man and zone coverages.
The loss of Chubb is also felt in the passing games as Mayfield’s numbers drop-off significantly without the talented back. Mayfield’s completion percentage is 73.5% with a TD:INT ratio of 4:0 with Chubb on the field. Without those numbers read 63.6% and 4:3. The loss of Chubb may have disastrous effects throughout all levels of the Browns offense.
The health of the Browns offensive line is something the Pats should look to take advantage of. If Tretter can’t go, rookie Christian Barmore will very much be in line for another disruptive game. The loss of veteran Conklin places a lot of pressure on backup Blake Hance. Hance famously entered a playoff game a year ago after signing earlier in the week. That led to QB Baker Mayfield commenting on their introduction in the locker room before kickoff. While Hance may have had a nice introduction to Mayfield and the team, he may be in for a long introduction to Matt Judon. The Pats will want to bring pressure while keeping Mayfield in the pocket. The advantage here lies with the stellar front seven of the Pats and the veteran savvy of their defensive backfield. The Pats will look to capitalize on the inevitable interception.
Browns Run the Ball
It wasn’t long ago that the Patriots’ run defense was being lambasted for poor effort. Some may have wondered if Hightower had lost a step in his year away. Since, the Pats have held the Jets, Cowboys, Texans, and Panthers under 4 yards per carry. This improvement has revolved around the stellar play of Hightower and fellow linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. The loss of Chubb provides a more significant challenge for the Browns offense against a suddenly surging Patriots defense.
Earlier in the year, the Browns found themselves in a similar situation against the Broncos. All third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson did in that matchup was run for 146 yards on 22 carries. The Browns continue to lead the league with 160.2 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. Both are video game numbers. The game will come down to this matchup. If the Pats can limit the Browns rushing attack, their offense will be stuck in the mud throughout Sunday afternoon.
The Browns enjoy motioning a tight end or fullback into the backfield for a late numbers advantage. The Pats will need their big boys up front to eat up blocks without yielding ground to keep their linebackers clean to make the play. The Pats opened the game a week ago with a heavy 3-4 front that featured Lawrence Guy (315 lbs.), Carl Davis (320 lbs.), and Davon Godchaux (311 lbs). Expect the Pats to stay here while occasionally adding Barmore (311 lbs for those wondering) for jumbo packages.
The Pats have been rounding into form after a rough start to the season on special teams. Return man Gunner Olszewski is set to miss the game with a concussion. Last week this forced WR Jakobi Meyers into action on punt returns. JJ Taylor may be in line this week to field kicks.
The Browns have had an inconsistent season from their special teams’ units thus far. K Chase McLaughlin has been solid but the Browns punting units have had issues. P Jamie Gillan ranks last in the league with a 41.8-yard average. The loss of core special teamer Demetric Felton (COVID) may lead a lane open for the Pats to exploit in the return game.
Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski was in elementary school when Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Join that with the lights-out play calling of Steve Belichick (lip licking aside) and Mayfield might not be the only one confused on Sunday. McDaniels has been calling smart and safe plans of late, something that should continue against a Browns defense that doubled their takeaway total last week against the Bengals.
This game may be in the running for the quickest game played Sunday as long as the refs don’t get too involved (the Browns were flagged 10 times last week, average 7 per game). If there was ever a game to bet the under, it’ll be this one. Both teams will look to establish a healthy ground game without much luck while having to play small in the passing game. This is going to be a physical “do your job” 60 minutes and I’ll take Belichick’s boys every day of the week in that kind of matchup. Pats win 20-17.
The Week 10 NFL Power Rankings show exactly why I love the NFL so much. It’s truly a week-to-week league, so you really don’t know who teams are until the games are played. Any team can win any given week. Also, teams that looked like power houses a few weeks ago can end up on the fringe of playoff contention this week. What will next week have in store? Who knows. But, let’s dive into what we learned from this week…
32. Detroit Lions (0-8)
Last Week: 32
The Detroit Lions come off the bye week still stuck in the basement of the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings. You really shouldn’t have expected anything else, to be fair. Everyone else has won a game, so it would have taken a special level of incompetence I don’t think we’ve seen in the NFL yet to displace this Lions team. Maybe they can take advantage of a Steelers team that has been super inconsistent this year? Hard to imagine, but they can’t go 0-17 can they?
31. Houston Texans (1-8)
Last Week: 31
The Texans won the turnover battle. But, they still turned the ball over four times themselves. Despite forcing five, they only managed to put nine points on the board. They couldn’t find the endzone once, despite being set up in or near Miami territory four times. In fact, they elected to take a field goal at the one-yard line despite being down 11 points in the fourth quarter. I guess the idea was to take the points so you’re only down by a touchdown and a two-point conversion? I don’t know. I’d have tried a quarterback sneak or something. Just seems cowardly.
30. Miami Dolphins (2-7)
Last Week: 30
The Dolphins… did it? They beat the Texans, I guess. Woo. The Dolphins turned the ball over five times, but somehow managed to hold onto a lead they built in the first half. They won’t win many more games playing like that, especially against the Ravens next week.
29. New York Jets (2-6)
Last Week: 26
There’s the Jets we know and love. It looked like Mike White was going to have another good day. But, he exited the game with a nerve contusion. He should be fine after 10 days of rest. But, now the question is, does he get another opportunity, or do the Jets bring back their No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson? It’s probably the only exciting Jets related talking point that exists right now, because they don’t have much else going on. That defense is still wretched. Frankly, they should be 1-7 right now. But, I’m sure they’ll find loss No. 7 next week in Buffalo.
28. Washington Football Team (2-6)
Last Week: 28
Washington went into their bye week on a four game losing streak after looking relatively competitive through the first four weeks. The division is completely out of reach at this point, and it’s tough to find many more winnable games on their remaining schedule. Maybe the Panthers? Maybe they can split with the Eagles? I don’t know. It’s a rough time in the nation’s capital these days.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
Last week: 29
I don’t know if I’ve ever been so impressed and, simultaneously, not impressed by a win in my life. The Jaguars did knock off a team I’ve had at No. 1 in these power rankings before. But, they also didn’t score a single touchdown and had to finish the game without Trevor Lawrence. He should be fine, but the Jags aren’t going to hold opponents to six points every week.
26. New York Giants (3-6)
Last Week: 27
Two good games in a row against AFC West opponents, but this time the Giants actually pulled it off. I’m not ready to start buying into them yet. But, they do have the Bucs, Eagles, and Dolphins after the bye week. If they can come out of that stretch 2-3 I’ll probably take them out of the cellar.
25. Chicago Bears (3-6)
Last Week: 23
The Bears couldn’t overcome multiple obviously terrible calls by the zebras this week in a hard-to-watch game against the Steelers. I think there might have been more flags than actual game-changing plays. To be fair, some of them were deserved. The Bears played sloppy this week. At the end of the day, if you’re in position for the refs to beat you, you don’t deserve to win. The Bears don’t deserve much winning right now. The wheels are starting to fall off and I’m not sure how much longer Matt Nagy lasts.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)
Last Week: 22
Man, the Eagles had ‘em. They held a lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and their defense was playing great. But, Justin Herbert did Justin Herbert things and took the lead back. The Eagles did manage to march back down the field and tie the game, but they couldn’t stop the chargers from taking the entire remaining six minutes of the game on the last drive to knock in what was essentially the game winning field goal. The Eagles’ desperation double lateral at the end of the game that only lost 14 yards perfectly highlighted the false hope and actual payoff this game felt like.
23. Carolina Panthers (4-5)
Last Week: 18
I didn’t give the Patriots a bump in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings this week for beating the Panthers. But, I’m definitely knocking the Panthers down for that loss. The Patriots took care of business in a game they were expected to win if they were for real. But, the Panthers fell flat in a game they desperately needed to win to maintain some semblance of competitiveness. Sam Darnold’s three interceptions reminded you of the ghosts he so famously saw against New England in the past.
22. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
Last Week: 25
Woah! I thought for sure the Falcons were going to find a way to lose that game, and they almost did! Even after Cordarelle Patterson put them in easy field goal range with less than a minute remaining, Mike Davis almost fumbled the game away. Arthur Smith made a decision that looks cowardly, but is probably the smartest thing to do if you’re the Falcons. He took the gift, told Matt Ryan to kneel on the ball, and took the highest percentage chance of winning possible to squeeze out a win that almost wasn’t.
21. Seattle Seahawks (3-5)
Last Week: 21
The Seahawks could get lucky next week if Aaron Rodgers is unable to pass COVID protocols. Russell Wilson should have no problem dispatching the team the 2021 version of the Chiefs overcame. But, if Rodgers does play, the Seahawks could find that Wilson couldn’t come back quick enough. They only managed to win one game with Geno Smith and now have an uphill battle with the Packers and Cardinals next on the schedule.
20. San Francisco 49ers (3-5)
Last Week: 17
The 49ers had no answers for James Connor, Colt McCoy, and Christian Kirk. That’s not a great sign for a team that was looking to stay relevant in the playoff hunt. There’s still time to turn things around, but they still have a handful of tough games left on their schedule.
19. Denver Broncos (5-4)
Last Week: 24
Is that a sign of life I see from Denver? It might be false hope, because weird games happen in the NFL. But, after being one of the most promising teams through the first three weeks, the Broncos finally have a reason to feel like they could turn their season around. Weirdly enough, it came after they shipped Von Miller to Los Angeles. They have a bad Eagles team coming up next. If they find a way to come away with a win, they’ll be 6-4 at the bye. That would put them in great position to make something out of a mostly disappointing season.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
Last Week: 19
I can’t say I’m terribly impressed by the way Pittsburgh won this game. An absolutely terrible run of form by the referees killed any semblance of hope for the Bears. Yeah, the Steelers won, but did it make you believe in this team any more than you did last week? Not me. They play the Lions next week and I’m sure they’ll win that one too. That said, if they can pull off the upset over the Chargers in Week 11, I’ll put them in the top 14.
17. Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
Last Week: 16
I’m pretty much done with the Vikings at this point. Yes, their record could be so much better than it is right now. I have been preaching that non-stop all season. But, this is what separates the good teams from the bad teams. The Ravens are the team that finds a way to come away with wins in these close games. The Vikings find a way to lose. It doesn’t always make perfect sense, but that’s the NFL baby.
16. Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
Last Week: 20
Although the AFC South division race is starting to look out of reach for the Colts, the playoffs are still a realistic possibility. The Colts get a boost in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings because they took care of business against a bad team, and they have a few more bad teams coming up. The Colts could realistically be 6-5 by Week 11 and possibly in control of a wild card spot. Quite the turnaround for a team that started 1-4.
15. New Orleans Saints (5-3)
Last Week: 14
Last week, I was asked why I didn’t have the Saints higher considering they beat Green Bay and Tampa Bay, two top-10 teams. Well, that’s why. Without Jameis Winston, I’m just not sure how competitive this Saints team can really be. This week, they lost to a Falcons team that is suddenly .500. You read that right. The Falcons got right against the Saints. Not a position you want to be in.
14. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
Last Week: 13
There’s the Raiders team we were expecting to see. They overcame the Gruden distraction to play some of the best football they’d played all season. But, losing Henry Ruggs III seems to have been a bit more than they were prepared to overcome. The defense didn’t exactly play great, but Derek Carr threw two interceptions to only one touchdown. They had to rely on Daniel Carlson for their remaining 10 points, which just wasn’t going to get the job done against the good version of Daniel Jones.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
Last Week: 10
Had the Bengals’ next opponent, after their upcoming bye week, not also lost in embarrassing fashion this week, I’d probably have them at 14 right now. Essentially, I’m saying I still consider them a playoff team, but barely. According to the standings, they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs right now when they held the AFC’s No. 1 seed just two weeks ago. This defense is a train wreck right now. The bye week couldn’t come at a more perfect time. They need to readjust and refocus if they want to be alive in January.
12. Cleveland Browns (5-4)
Last Week: 15
This just in: Odell Beckham Jr was the problem in Cleveland. I’ve been saying it all year, but there was no greater proof than the Browns nearly equalling their highest point total of the year without the alleged ‘star’ wide receiver. Baker Mayfield looked locked in and efficient, helping the Browns to 41 points against a sputtering Bengals defense. Interestingly enough, the only other time the Browns put up a comparable point total this year was against the Chargers. OBJ played, but he wasn’t exactly a major part of the game plan with only 3 targets.
11. Kansas City Chiefs (5-4)
Last Week: 12
I’m starting to think the Chiefs aren’t going to turn things around. They got a win against the Packers this week, but it wasn’t pretty. Patrick Mahomes didn’t make any major mistakes, which is huge. But, he also couldn’t get much done against a stout Packers defense either. The Chiefs were handed a golden opportunity to beat a top team with the Rodgers situation. To their credit, they came away with the win. But, it was an ugly win that didn’t inspire much confidence they can replicate the result going forward.
10. Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
Last Week: 5
The Rams end their four game win streak with a loss to the newly minted Week 10 NFL Power Rankings No. 2 team. On the whole, the defense didn’t play too badly. They only allowed just over 200 yards of total offense, although they did allow three touchdowns. The fourth touchdown came with the absolute meltdown of the Rams’ offense. Matt Stafford reverted back to his Detroit form with two killer interceptions. Their running game generally did pretty well. But, with the game being out of control at halftime, they ended up throwing WAY more than running.
9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
Last Week: 9
I was ready to knock the Chargers down a few spots for the run of form they’ve been on lately, especially after a loss to the lowly Eagles. But, LAB found a way to get it done on the road this week. It was a rough first half, but they found their stride against the Eagles in the second half and salted things away with a Dustin Hopkins field goal at the death. For now, they maintain their spot in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings.
8. New England Patriots (5-4)
Last Week: 8
Last week I gave the Patriots an 8 spot jump. I thought, perhaps, I might be being a little too generous. Yeah they massacred the Jets and beat a former top-5 team. Yeah they came close to beating the Cowboys. Their only bad losses this year were a Week 3 loss to the Saints and a weird Week 1 loss to the Dolphins. But are they really turning things around this quickly in New England? Oh yes. They wholloped the struggling Panthers this week. I didn’t give them a bump in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings. But, it confirmed to me that my faith was well placed.
7. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Last Week: 7
At a certain point, the ability to pull out miracles against opponents, no matter how cursed, is impressive. Throughout much of the season, the Ravens have reminded me of last year’s Steelers, who famously went 11-0 against bad teams and fell apart when the schedule got hard. The Ravens should be 5-3 because of the uncalled Delay of Game against the Lions, but that hardly matters now with the rest of the AFC North tearing itself apart.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)
Last Week: 6
Although it doesn’t affect their standing in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings, the Saints’ loss helps the Buccaneers out dramatically. With WFT, the Giants, Colts, and Falcons coming up the next four weeks, the Buccaneers should be able to capitalize on their lucky regaining of control of the NFC South this week.
5. Buffalo Bills (5-3)
Last Week: 2
Bad games happen, so I still consider this Bills team to be a top 5 contender. But, games like that can’t happen often. It was the first time all season they failed to score a touchdown and the only time other than Week 1 when they scored under 20. So, Bills fans shouldn’t be ready to panic yet. Bounce back against the Jets last week and all will be forgiven.
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
Last Week: 3
The Cowboys probably deserve a deeper dive in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings than this. But, luckily for them, many other teams around them had worse losses, or were on bye. Dak Prescott was outplayed by Teddy Bridgewater and their defense allowed the Broncos to put up 30 points. It was their highest point total of the season, and they’ve only scored 20 points once since September.
3. Green Bay Packers (7-2)
Last Week: 1
I’m not going to knock the Green Bay Packersdown in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings too hard for losing without their starting QB. However, I am going to knock them down for showing how screwed they are without Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers plays that game, they probably crush a still sloppy looking Chiefs team. But, Jordan Love didn’t look ready to lead this team. Hopefully Rodgers comes back for Seattle.
2. Tennessee Titans (7-2)
Last Week: 11
Alright, so maybe the Titans will be fine without Derrick Henry. I famously pushed them down in the Week 9 NFL Power Rankings due to losing the player I assumed their football team would live and die with. Well, they went out and dropped 28 points on the Rams before the Rams ever got their first touchdown. Derrick Henry? How about Adrian Peterson.
1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
Last Week: 4
How do you counteract losing to a heavily undermanned Green Bay Packers team in the Week 10 NFL Power Rankings? You go beat a team while being heavily undermanned yourself! The Cardinals handily took care of business this week without Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins. They still put up 31 points and bullied a 49ers team that is desperately trying to claw its way into the playoff race.
After nearly a month away from writing due to the pressure of starting my new career, I am finally back with this weeks preview. In my last preview prior to the Colts game, it seemed like the cracks were getting bigger and now on the back of consecutive last second losses against poor teams, everything has come crashing down. The Dolphins organisation is a shambles.
Widely considered a playoff contender prior to the season, they are now the worst team in the NFL. I am not even sure the Dolphins beat the Texans Week 9, but lets not spoil next weeks preview… There is very little fight within this team and the days of complementary football are now a distant memory. Nevertheless, it is my job to put all of this discontent that has been brewing over the last month to one side, and tell you how Miami can win this game. Should be easy right?
Reflections on Week 6 & Week 7
As last weeks game was drawing to an end, the main thought that raced through my mind was “surely not again”. Having been in London for the Jags game, wanting the ground to swallow me up as 60,000 fans went crazy with the final kick of the game, the Dolphins wanted to provide that same feeling to all fans back at Hard Rock against the Falcons. The Dolphins were the most supported team in London, yet it seemed that the fans of every other team were very much anti-Dolphins.
While the Dolphins have not played well enough across 4 quarters to deserve to win the game, they certainly did not deserve to lose. This is no exaggeration, but the Dolphins are literally 2mm from winning the last two games. Had things gone differently, they would have been out of sight. 2mm from being 1-6 to 3-4, or maybe even 4-3, if the DPI was called on Fuller against the Raiders. The 2021 Miami Dolphins have not done themselves any favors in their performances, but my god they have been incredibly unlucky.
The one positive over the past two weeks is the performance of Tua Tagovailoa. Since his return Tua has a 102.7 passer rating, 620 passing yards for a completion percentage of 74.7% leading to 6 TDs. 3 interceptions unfortunately continue to leave a mark over what have been positive performances. What is more impressive, is that Tua’s best performances during his tenure with the Dolphins have been when his starting receivers are out of the game.
People regularly question whether Tua is a QB who can win game for the team. In the past two weeks he has gone 20/24 with 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 4th quarter. In the 3 games that Tua has played this season, the team has always been in a winning position when he has left the field for the final time. Yet, a dark cloud filled with Deshaun Watson rumors continue to linger over the franchise.
Expectations Heading into the Game:
Over the past three weeks Miami have given up 1,066 yards passing and 337 rushing yards. The decline of the defense has been a key element of the Dolphins’ decline this season. Next up Josh Allen…
That being said in Week 2, despite being blown out 35-0, the Dolphins defense held Allen to 179 yards. This is the lowest allowed by the Dolphins all season and the least gained by Buffalo. It did not make a difference in that game, and in all honesty I cannot see it being any different this week either.
Buffalo have the number one defense in the league, allowing the fewest points per game and the fewest yards per game. In contrast, Miami rank 31st in points allowed (29.6) and 29th in points scored (18.1). It seems somewhat fitting that this game is being played on Halloween, as it has been a nightmare matchup for the Dolphins in recent years.
Keys to Success:
No Mistakes– What the past 5 weeks have taught us is that the NFL is a game of fine margins. The slightest of mistakes on one play can prove to be so costly. Tua has been very impressive. Despite a few mistakes being sprinkled into his performances he has for the most part bounced back on subsequent drives. Against an elite team like Buffalo mistakes will be critical.
Control Time of Possession– The defense has been poor in recent weeks. Keeping Allen off the field will be essential in keeping the score down and within reach for Tua and the offense to attempt to stay in the game. This will require the offensive line to actually keep Tua upright this time.
Defensive Return to Week 2– Miami’s defense played well against the Bills last time around. The scoreline was not reflective of their performance but the offense’s. The offense has since improved (couldn’t get any worse) while the defense has regressed. If Miami are to stand any chance in this game the defense HAS to improve.
With Deiter still on IR and Mancz being questionable, it seems that Austin Reiter will continue to be the Dolphins center. We did not hear much of Reiter in his first game for Miami which is always a good thing on the offensive line. Parker seems like he could feature amidst several trade rumors. Biggest loss could be Jerome Baker who is questionable with a knee injury. The injury is nothing major, but it is clear that he is dealing with considerable discomfort. One positive is Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are now back in full practice.
It has been a testing season for us Dolphins fans and likely to continue. Buffalo are coming off a bye week and well rested. As fans we need a bye week just to give ourselves some relief, but we will have to wait until Week 14 for that. Brace yourselves. The observant readers will notice that the ATB writers score predictions are missing from this weeks’ preview and for good reason. However, stranger things have happened in the NFL. Maybe, just maybe on Halloween, the Dolphins will treat us all, and the defense returns and makes Allen see ghosts. Fins up!
The NFL Power Rankings Week 7 are seeing quite a bit of movement. Basement teams are shuffling around, the top 10 is shuffling around, and we even have a new No. 1 this week! The Detroit Lions had the biggest fall this week all the way down to the bottom spot in the NFL. The Las Vegas Raiders saw the biggest climb after overcoming their head coach drama to put away the struggling Broncos.
32. Detroit Lions (0-6)
Last Week: 29
The bottom fell out. The Detroit Lions are the last winless team in the NFL and they got there in absolutely embarrassing fashion this week. They were completely shut out in their own home stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. That is, until the Bengals started playing prevent defense and allowed the Lions to march down the field and put 11 garbage time points up against their backups. Dan Campbell is no longer crying for his players. Now he’s just disappointed in them. That hurts worse, and that’s why they’re now at the bottom of the NFL Power Rankings.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)
Last week: 32
The Jacksonville Jaguars finally snapped their 20-game losing streak. It figures it would happen in London, their second home, where they’ve played more than any other team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still worried about how this locker room feels about Urban Meyer. But, for this week, they got the job done and earned a bit of credit on the NFL Power Rankings.
30. Houston Texans (1-5)
Last Week: 31
Trust me, I don’t feel good elevating the Houston Texans a spot after being blown out 31-3 by a team that came in with the same record as them. Unfortunately, that’s how things go sometimes when you’re down this deep in the Power Rankings. Sometimes you get dropped for looking awful, and sometimes the ineptitude of your peers makes you look slightly better.
29. Miami Dolphins (1-5)
Last Week: 27
Currently, I don’t believe the Miami Dolphins are a fundamentally more flawed team than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Miami’s quarterback situation is a mess and their defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed. But, Brian Flores still has to be a better coach than Urban Meyer, right? Flores’ fall from grace has been spectacular. But, at least his players still respect him. I think.
28. New York Giants (1-5)
Last Week: 28
Hey. They had a lead through the end of the first quarter. That’s progress right? Nevermind the fact that they let the Rams score 38 unanswered points after a pretty good start. I’m joking, of course. They’ve been absolutely spanked both of the last two weeks. You thought they were making progress when they upset the Saints after two close losses. But, it’s starting to feel a bit hopeless in Jersey.
27. New York Jets (1-4)
Last Week: 30
Sometimes one of the best things you can do is nothing. That’s what the Jets did this week on their bye week. In the process, they capitalized on an opportunity to not embarrass themselves, as they’ve done quite a few times this season. Luckily for them, a bunch of their peers on this end of the NFL Power Rankings had really bad weeks. So, the Jets end up with a large climb due to simply not looking worse than teams like the Dolphins, Texans, and Lions.
26. Atlanta Falcons (2-3)
Last Week: 26
The Falcons don’t get quite as lucky as the Jets on their bye week. Unfortunately for them, nobody in their area of the Power Rankings embarrassed themselves as badly as the teams in the bottom five. They’ll have an opportunity to get back to .500 against the lowly Dolphins next week, but for now they stay put.
25. Washington Football Team (2-4)
Last Week: 25
That was an admirable performance by Washington. They bullied Patrick Mahomes and went into halftime with a lead. Unfortunately, Mahomes decided to stand up for himself. Washington allowed the Chiefs to score three touchdowns on three drives after a missed field goal. Taylor Heinicke completed the meltdown with an interception thrown late in the fourth quarter. The game was probably already out of hand at that point, but that sealed it.
24. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4)
Last Week: 23
For a brief time, the Eagles turned a stinker of a Thursday Night Football game into a briefly watchable affair. They weren’t able to finish out the comeback due to a completely dead looking defense on the Buccaneers’ final drive. But, Jalen Hurts looked great on those final three drives.
23. Indianapolis Colts (2-4)
Last Week: 24
After nearly upsetting the Ravens last week, the Colts showed they’re still a dangerous team this week. They did it with a 31-3 drubbing of the struggling Houston Texans. Running back Jonathan Taylor exploded for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He was matched by Carson Wentz in the air, who had a very efficient night. When the Colts play like this, it makes you think they could do something exciting. The problem is, games like this have been few and far between in Indy this year.
22. Denver Broncos (3-3)
Last Week: 19
RIP to that much talked about 3-0 start. The Broncos have gone from one of the most hyped teams in NFL Power Rankings to a “bad” team. In theory, they had a devastated Raiders team delivered, like lambs, to the slaughter. In reality, the Broncos were completely outclassed by a far more talented Raiders team that looked motivated to overcome their coaching woes.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
Last Week: 22
I can’t say I’m exactly impressed after the Steelers ground out wins against a hilariously overrated Broncos team and the Geno Smith Seahawks. But, a win is a win, no matter how ugly. And boy, was that an ugly win. The Steelers subjected America to an overtime nobody wanted. They pulled it off in the end, but this Steelers team still has way more questions than answers.
20. New England Patriots (2-4)
Last Week: 20
You have to give it to the Patriots: They played the Cowboys much closer than any other team has since Week 1 when Tom Brady beat them. It seems like ol’ Bill Belichick is inching this team closer and closer to contention every week. But, they had a tough task against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys this week. Still, they had a lead late and almost broke it in overtime. Patriots fans have to feel like they’re right there.
19. Chicago Bears (3-3)
Last Week: 18
As a fan of a team that has been owned by a hall of fame quarterback for the last decade or so, I feel for Bears fans. They won’t stop hearing “I still own you!” all week and possibly all year. They seem like they’re good enough to turn their season around and make the playoffs. But, they did this one to themselves. They’re going to have to get out of their own way if they want to play with the big boys.
18. Las Vegas Raiders (4-2)
Last Week: 21
I did not see that coming. Last week, the Bears were absolutely mauled by the Chicago Bears in the midst of the Jon Gruden fiasco. This week, they managed to put the drama behind them and play mostly flawless football en route to a huge win. It proved they are not pretenders of the same kind as the Broncos. Was it real, or was it an emotional reaction to their awful week? Their next three games are against the Eagles, Giants, and Chiefs. So, they could easily work their way back into the top 14 if they take advantage.
17. Seattle Seahawks (2-4)
Last Week: 15
Thank God Russell Wilson is coming back eventually. They aren’t going to do much winning with Geno Smith at quarterback. He almost brought them back at the end, but it was clearly a struggle to get there. Then, he fumbled the ball away at the critical moment. Just like the interception last week. Is this what Jets fans had to deal with? Poor suckers.
16. San Francisco 49ers (2-3)
Last Week: 17
The 49ers are probably happy that the Seattle Seahawks fell just short of a victory this week. The season is still early, so you could easily see their 2-3 start flip to 4-3 with games against the Colts and Bears coming up. Then again, they could easily plummet in the power rankings if they fail to win those games.
15. New Orleans Saints (3-2)
Last Week: 16
The New Orleans Saints also benefit from Geno Smith’s ineptitude on their bye week. Then again, this is two positive results in a row for the Saints. That seems pretty unsustainable considering their run of form this year. Is that a bad omen for their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks this coming week?
14. Carolina Panthers (3-3)
Last Week: 12
Broncos fans are probably looking at this list thinking I’m an idiot for putting them so low and the Panthers, who also blew a 3-0 start, still in playoff range. Rest assured, if the Panthers put up another bad performance next week, they will be plummeting down these Power Rankings. The difference, however, is the Broncos dominated three awful opponents then got exposed when they played real teams. The Panthers at least beat the Saints and have made each of their losses interesting. Sam Darnold is starting to fall back down to earth, but they still managed to force overtime against the Vikings. They didn’t even get the ball in overtime, but you feel like they might have won the game if their offense got the ball first.
13. Minnesota Vikings (3-3)
Last Week: 14
The Vikings’ luck in their 1-3 start was absolutely brutal. But, two solid wins since have brought them back to .500. Their schedule is absolutely brutal the next four weeks as they play the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, and Packers. But, they’ve proven they can hang with anyone. If they can even go 2-2 in that stretch, you have to feel good about their playoff chances.
12. Tennessee Titans (3-2)
Last Week: 13
The Titans beat the team that I considered to be the most dangerous in football, so you can’t deny they look like a bona fide playoff team. Their offense is still heavily reliant on Derrick Henry continuing to be an absolute force. But, Ryan Tannehill came up clutch down the stretch too. He kept the Titans driving late in the game, allowing Derrick Henry to save his angry runs for big situations.
11. Cleveland Browns (3-3)
Last Week: 9
The last two weeks haven’t been great for the Browns. You could sort of look past that loss to the Chargers. Herbert’s gonna Herbert, but at least Baker Mayfield and the offense kept up and participated in a wild shootout. This week, Baker Mayfield couldn’t stop turning the ball over and the Browns’ offense simply could not keep up with the Cardinals. The Browns turn around on a short week to host the sputtering Broncos before getting 10 days of rest to host the Steelers. Hopefully that’s enough to shake off a rocky couple of weeks, because they need it.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)
Last Week: 11
The Cincinnati Bengals are a top-10 team in the NFL through six weeks, just like we all expected. Ok but seriously, did anyone see this coming? Granted, it’s not like the Steelers, Jaguars, and Lions are exactly difficult outs. But, they’ve been beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and that’s not nothing. Hell, they would have beaten the Packers if one of those field goals went in. They proved themselves this week by dismantling the Lions. Maybe not as efficiently as you’d hope, but it was still a blowout.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)
Last Week: 10
I was ready to move the Chiefs out of the top 14 after halftime. The Chiefs were sloppy in that first half and looked to be confirming the doubts of many with their play. But, they turned things around in the second half to the tune of a 21-0 shutout on the road. This is why I never moved the Chiefs out of the top 10. Because they’re still capable of stuff like this.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
Last Week: 6
That was a bad loss. The Los Angeles Chargers’ vaunted offense was completely shut out in the second half and most of the first half. The missed extra point on their lone touchdown near the end of the second quarter perfectly encapsulated a day where almost nothing went right for the Chargers. The Chargers have had some close calls this year against less-than-stellar competition. But, this is also the same team that dropped 47 points on the Cleveland Browns last week. So, I’m not ready to demote them to pretenders in the NFL Power Rankings just yet. We’ll see how they respond to this setback.
7. Green Bay Packers (5-1)
Last Week: 7
Do your victory lap, Aaron Rodgers. When you’re 22-5 against an opponent, I think you have every right to claim you own them. For the most part, the Packers played pretty average football against the Chicago Bears. They held Justin Fields under 200 yards passing, but they allowed 140 yards on the ground. However, Mason Crosby hit all of his kicks and Aaron Rodgers personally scored all three of the Packers’ touchdowns against a Bears team that looked like it was turning a corner.
6. Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
Last Week: 8
How many times is Lamar Jackson going to overcome being super reckless with the football and end up looking good by the end of it? He had a bad day (167 yards passing, one touchdown, two interceptions). The Ravens STILL blew out a Chargers team many consider to be dark horse Super Bowl contenders. When they’re firing on all cylinders like this, Lamar can afford to be less than perfect. The Ravens look as tough as anybody right now despite some close games against bad teams earlier in the year.
5. Los Angeles Rams (5-1)
Last Week: 5
The Rams went into New Jersey to face off against a Giants team missing all of their legitimate offensive weapons. I can’t say this is the most legitimizing win of all time, considering many already consider the Rams to be Super Bowl contenders. But, they got the job done against an obviously inferior opponent and they absolutely deserve credit for that. There’s not much room to move around this high in the power rankings. Especially, when everyone else up here also won their games. But, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald both showed exactly why many value them so highly.
4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
Last Week: 4
It was getting tense there for a minute in Foxborough. The Cowboys came in against a below average Patriots and almost fell victim to what could be argued as a trap game and a plunge in the NFL Power Rankings. But, Dak was electrifying as ever. He overcame a boneheaded interception where he tried to force a touchdown pass into really tight coverage to wind up throwing for 445 yards and three touchdowns.
3. Buffalo Bills (4-2)
Last Week: 1
Don’t feel bad, Buffalo. Everyone struggles against Derrick Henry. The Bills ended their run of dominance this week that had me claiming them as the best team in football despite the Week 1 loss. Josh Allen tried his hardest with 379 yards of total offense, three touchdowns, and only one interception. The problem is, his bowling ball style of scrambling couldn’t get the job done on a questionable 4th and one call. I get the Bills were trying to go for the win, but you could have lived to see overtime. I imagine they’ll take their frustrations out on the Dolphins after their bye week. But, another stumble and they could see a sharp fall in the NFL Power Rankings.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1)
Last Week: 3
If you turned the Thursday Night Football game after halftime, no one could blame you. The Bucs were dominating the Eagles through the first half after the Eagles’ first drive. If you kept watching, you saw the Bucs somehow let the Eagles back into the game, even after extending their lead to 28-7 in the third quarter. A missed Eagles field goal takes away from just how close the Eagles were to breaking through. But, the Bucs got their act together on the final drive and ran the clock out. Overall, it was a pretty solid win that shouldn’t have been a game.
1. Arizona Cardinals (6-0)
Last Week: 2
The Arizona Cardinals continued to make their case as the best team in the NFL Power Rankings as they dominated the Cleveland Browns from start to finish. A second quarter rally by the Browns gave them a fighting chance, but the Cardinals completely shut the door in the second half. Coffin nails were arguably achieved late in the third quarter when Deandre Hopkins reeled in a touchdown pass from Kyler Murray to make it 30-14. But, all hope was extinguished when AJ Green went in the endzone against his familiar foe with just under five minutes left in the game.